COVID-19 is on the doorstep of the world and last week the World Health Organization officially declared it as a pandemic. This is a dramatic time in the history of human society during the 21st century which will affect many aspects of religious beliefs and related ritualistic behaviours, including those of pilgrimage to holy sites and saints’ shrines that have until now been considered as healing and curing devices.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, pilgrims and devotees of sacred places, governmental institutions and their health sectors, and also religious leaders and clerics are challenged. Each is endeavouring to be reasonable and resolve several key issues of the effect of COVID-19 on pilgrimage to the sacred sites, questions such as caution about the health of pilgrims and the provision of related guidance and manuals; bodies, touch and the transference of disease; the importance of purity and the miracles of saints, their relics and shrines for healing COVID-19 and other health problems.
This is a unique time for anthropologists and other social scientists to observe the behaviour of the entire society (pilgrims, governmental sectors and also religious authorities) regarding the pilgrimage of devotees to saints’ shrines and sacred pilgrimage sites based on COVID-19. This is a call for participation in general observation and the sharing of knowledge in this regard among all faiths around the globe.
Those who are interested can share their observations and experiences on this FB page: